Today I would like to talk about one of my favorite things to do in every format! No, I mean besides playing Jund. Chaining Burning-Tree Emissary! It really is a great feeling. I’ve done it in every format that it was legal in, minus Vintage. Some of you might be thinking, “Wait, you did this in Legacy?” Why yes, yes I did. It was some of the most fun I have ever had playing magic and I was the talk of the tournament that day. While talking to friends about how I did random bystanders would say to me, “You’re the guy!” It was a blast. The opponents I beat, and those that I didn’t, were all interesting. Ranging from those who loved the idea to some who were probably pretty close to choking me out after we were done.
My very first round opponent was on Temur Delver. The board state was my two Burning-Tree Emissary’s versus his Tarmogoyf. I had either Path or Swords in had as a removal spell and a Ghor-Clan Rampager. So I lead with the removal spell. It was met with a Force of Will pitching blue card. I accepted my fate and moved to combat (no need to crew, so it was a safe move) I attacked with both of my Emissaries. He elected to block with his Tarmogoyf. I tapped the two required mana and attempted to bloodrush my Ghor-Clan Rampager. It would give my Emissary +4/+4 and trample until end of turn. It was met with a Stifle. I got a Ghor-Clan Rampager bloodrush stifled. To this day I am fairly certain that I am the only person in magic history to have a bloodrush stifled. It was really terrible for me at the time. My opponent ran away with the game after that.
I ended the day at 5-4 which is a positive record! The deck was primarily Standard with a few actual legacy cards. Lightning Bolts, Path to Exiles, and a few Taigas. I even beat Omni Tell. It was a fantastic day. I played the deck again with more fetches and dual lands in a legacy tournament. I ended up in the top 8 falling to Temur Delver in the first round. After losing two matches to that deck I am convinced it is a bad matchup, but that’s okay. Moving onto what I am really talking about.
MODERN REVOLT ZOO!
What we have received recently is a godsend. We have received more copies of Burning-Tree Emissary! Hidden Herbalists is the newest BTE on the block and they are just as awesome! They don’t have the ability to chain into a Reckless Bushwacker, but we have ways of fixing that. We also have a better Kird Ape in Narnam Renegade. With all of these tools the old Bushwacker Zoo decks have gotten much better. Old lists included both the Reckless Bushwackers and Goblin Bushwacker. With the upgrades this deck has received, I believe that it is finding its way to tier 1.
Here is the list I would start with:
Modern Revolt Zoo
What I love about this deck is how it can be degenerate while still being a creature deck. On my spectrum of combo decks this one falls into the least consistent while being the most explosive. When I speak of consistency I mean decks along the lines of Burn and Affinity. Generally all of their cards do the same thing. So any reasonable seven card hand is okay to work with. The less consistent, but more explosive decks being Goryo’s Vengeance. Or the new Eldrazi version playing Kari Zev’s Expertise, Sram’s Expertise, Breaking//Entering, and Beck//Call. Where some seven card hands are unbeatable and others are well off the spectrum of playable, but when you are playing the decks with much less consistency and more explosiveness, you will generally have ways to filter your draws. The ability to sculpt your hands and find the lines to win is a big part of playing these style of combo decks.
Revolt Zoo happens to be one of the more consistent decks with a lot of explosive power. You will have some hands with just a bunch of one drop creatures and a spell. They are very reasonable keeps, and if you can start double spelling early then you can get ahead. You can also have the turn one 14 damage attack hand. This hand just received a boost in consistency with 8 total Burning-Tree Emissary effects. Your hand simply needs a fetchland, Simian Spirit Guide, Burning-Tree Emissary, Reckless Bushwacker, and 3 more of either Burning-Tree or Hidden Herbalists. This totals into a 14 power, hasty attack on turn 1 and a win on turn 2, even through a removal spell.
With a list like this I am okay with sacrificing some consistency for a lot of explosive power. Something like this will be very hard for decks to handle. Everyone assumes you can gain life and be okay, but without actually dealing with the threats on the board, no amount of life will suffice. Other than infinite life out of the Abzan Company decks, of course. Wraths should generally be too slow to handle something like this as well.
Also with Death’s Shadow being the most recent flavor of the month, and not having a combo finish anymore, your opponent contributing to their life loss is always welcomed. We also have four creatures with deathtouch to deal with the larger threats from the Jund decks. I am okay with serving for 1-2 damage with my Narnam Renegade after I have attacked for 10+ damage.
One tiny thing that people will forget about, and something that reminds me why Rancor is in the deck (other than being really, really ridiculously good looking, of course), is how well it plays with the two newest Aether Revolt cards. Trying to equip it to a creature creates a need for your opponent to respond and stop it from happening. Boom, revolt triggered. It plays well with Hidden Herbalists which adds double green upon entering with revolt. The best part is how well it plays with Narnam Renegades. Deathtouch and trample play very, very well together. Trample states that anything beyond lethal damage to the creature can be assigned elsewhere. Deathtouch requires only 1 point of damage to be dealt to the creature to destroy it. The rest tramples over. So your 4/3 Renegade always tramples over for 3 damage.
As for sideboarding, what I would recommend to you is less on the play and more on the draw. You will be ahead when you are on the play and will not need all of the Tin Street Hooligans, Stony Silence, and Forked Bolts vs Affinity. I personally would just side in the Tin Streets and the Forked Bolts. They are still threats and burn spells on an empty board where Stony Silence sits there and doesn’t do anything by itself. When you are on the draw I can see boarding a bit heavier and planning for a bit longer of a game.
The hardest thing about this deck that I have found is creature sequencing. In which order do I cast my creatures? A general order would be as follows:
Turn 2 With a Reckless Bushwacker:
Turn 2 with multiple green cards:
Now how is that so hard? Well, not all hands flow into these simple examples. Take for example this hand:
Which do we cast first? The given pick order clearly states how we go about this. In this a hand we are getting all green mana when we revolt our two drop. To try to stay as mana efficient as possible we would actually cast the Kird Ape first. To increase our damage potential we would cast the Experiment One. What if it takes turns before we draw our second land? We would cast the Narnam Renegade first to get the most effect out of our cards. It becomes more and more complicated with hands like this.
Thanks for reading everyone!
As always stay humble and stay hungry!